How Can You Maximize Your Chances Of Seeing A Shooting Star?

In many parts of the world, seeing a shooting star is regarded as an auspicious omen; it is said that your wish, or whatever it is you’re thinking when you see a shooting star, will come true. There’s doesn’t seem to be any scientific basis behind this belief, but it’s still quite a popular notion. Thanks to popular culture, which further promotes this belief whenever possible, you will almost certainly find yourself staring up at the sky during a camping trip in the hopes of spotting a shooting star.

With that in mind, let’s look at what it takes to be in the best position to spot a shooting star.

Shooting stars

What we all know as “shooting stars” are actually associated with meteor showers. Before you can understand what a meteor shower is, you first have to understand what meteors are.

A meteor, commonly referred to as a shooting star, is an asteroid, a comet, or a meteoroid (or some part of these objects) that passes through the atmosphere of Earth. (For more info, check out: What is the Difference Between Asteroids, Meteors and Meteorites).

A meteor shower is simply an event when a considerable number of meteors are seen to originate or radiate from a point in the sky. Therefore, in order to observe a shooting star, the best thing you can do is look for a meteor shower.

How can you maximize your chances of seeing a shooting star?

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Let me make this very clear from the start: there is no guaranteed method to get a nice visual of a shooting star while still standing on Earth. If you’re still adamant about seeing a shooting star on purpose (although most people just stumble into seeing one!), here are a few things to keep in mind.

The Right Spot

If you happen to live in a metropolitan city (like New York, London, Beijing, Mumbai, etc.), your chances of spotting a shooting star are pretty low.

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This is because large, developed cities like these have a lot of artificial lighting, and therefore have high levels of light pollution. Apart from that, the levels of air may also have a high dust content, which may further reduce your chances of seeing ‘regular’ stars, let alone a shooting star. Furthermore, even city lights, moonlight and clouds can cause a hindrance to spotting a shooting star.

Therefore, in order to see a shooting star, your best bet is to be at a place that has minimal artificial or natural lighting.

The Right Time

Star shower

Credit: qq47182080/Fotolia

You can maximize your chances of seeing a shooting star by tracking the schedule of meteor showers for the year (you can check out the schedule for 2016 here). You are more likely to see a shooting star when the moon phase is close to a new moon, as the sky is at its darkest at that time of the month.

Furthermore, your chances of seeing a shooting star increase the later in night you set out to watch a meteor shower. At the time just before dawn, you are on the part of Earth that’s basically plowing into the comet dust that burns up and appears as meteors.

Seeing a shooting star can take time… a really long time. People spend their entire lives without ever being able to see a shooting star. Of course, not many people go about actively looking for a shooting star either, but if you do choose to set out on that journey, spotting a shooting star can be a really tough task to pull off.


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About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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